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The Orient Historic District is full of charming homes, including this listing at 585 Orchard St. (Photo Credit: OneKey MLS)

To a certain buyer, the prospect of owning a historic home can be alluring.  From Victorians to the American Foursquare, old houses ooze charm and hard-to-find vintage features like coffered ceilings, pocket doors and butler’s pantries.

On the North Fork, a historic home is considered one that was built in the early twentieth century or earlier, said Bridget Elkin, real estate salesperson with Compass. “A more narrow definition would include older homes that embody certain characteristics or construction techniques that make them uniquely able to showcase a style of architecture or the time period in which they were built. Certain municipalities place homes on a historic registry using some combination of the above criteria.”

They tend to hold their value well, said Elkin, if they are in a desirable location and have been maintained through the years.

“Older homes are known to require special attention and care but the craftsmanship and materials they feature are hard to replicate which is why we often hear historic homes being described as having so much ‘character,’” she said. “Modern amenities and efficiency are increasingly becoming priorities for buyers, but there will always be a large buyer pool who value a beautiful historic home above all else. Homes that undergo renovations to incorporate contemporary and stylish interior elements while managing to preserve historical character have significant appeal with buyers.”

That process can come with its fair share of headaches, however. If you’re seriously interested in a historic home and plan to one day make changes or renovate, there are certain questions you should ask.

“When buying a historic home, the buyer should first question whether there are any limitations on what improvements or changes may be made,” said Thomas McCloskey, licensed associate real estate broker, Douglas Elliman. “Would approvals from an architectural review board or historical society be required to modify or update the home?  I would also recommend hiring an engineer with experience in historic homes to inspect the structure.”

Elkin said the most common changes made are to floor plans, since those original to these homes were designed for 18th, 19th or early 20th century living.

What’s more, “depending on the house, electric, heating and plumbing systems might be antiquated and need updating,” she said.

Then there is cost.

“Keep in mind that if you want to maintain integrity, renovation and repair work will be pricier than it would on a regular home,” said Sheri Winter Parker, licensed associate real estate broker, Corcoran. 

It’s also important to note that homes in an historic district or on the historic registry will likely be subject to rules and guidelines restricting certain changes one can make, said Elkin.

“While this presents a challenge,” she said, “so much of the North Fork’s charm and history is seen in its beautiful old buildings and that is certainly worth celebrating and preserving.”